Maternal care in the bromeliad crab Metopaulias depressus (Decapoda) : maintaining oxygen, pH and calcium levels optimal for the larvae
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- Diesel, R. & Schuh, M. Behav Ecol Sociobiol (1993) 32: 11. doi:10.1007/BF00172218
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Harsh physico-chemical conditions during early development may select for parental care. However, no study on the evolution of parental care has focused on the physico-chemical conditions in the environment, the physiological needs of early life stages and the significance of parental care. Early development of the bromeliad crab is completed in small rainwater reservoirs in bromeliad leaf axils. Axils not cared for by mother crabs are acidic, hypoxic and contain very little Ca2+. Maternal care buffers axil water and increases oxygen and Ca2+ availability. Our results show that (a) bromeliad crab larvae die at pH levels usually found in unattended axils, but develop successfully into the first crab stage at the pH typical of cared-for axils; (b) oxygen concentration in unattended axils is below the critical concentration for larvae, but is high enough for normal respiration in cared-for axils; (c) the calcium demand of larvae for moulting and development cannot be satisfied in unattended axils, but is met by the higher calcium content of cared-for axils. Therefore, physicochemical conditions in the bromeliad axil habitat exert strong selection for the maintenance of parental care in the bromeliad crab.